Police are beefing up their presence on Miami Beach’s sandy shores this holiday weekend, on foot and behind the wheel.
Miami Beach Police have made 115 arrests since Thursday. Of those arrests, 58 were on Saturday. Arrests are almost double from the 64 made within the same time frame last Memorial Day weekend.
Most of the arrests were drug-related or for disorderly conduct. Police said this year that they eliminated DUI checkpoints in favor of a “DUI squad.”
“These officers won’t be at a specific point, but they’ll be scattered throughout all of Miami Beach,” said police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez. “We’re looking for drivers impaired not only by alcohol but also by narcotics.”
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The holiday weekend, also known as “Urban Beach Week,” attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors for a loosely affiliated group of parties and hip-hop concerts in different venues across South Beach.
Last week, police said they would deploy around 500 officers, including cops from other Miami-Dade departments, in preparation for the crowds.
Rodriguez said that although almost every officer in the 400-strong MBPD is working, the amount of police officers on the beach this year isn’t significantly larger than years previous.
“This weekend as a whole has been relatively peaceful,” Rodriguez said.
David Marrero, who lives blocks away from Ocean Drive, said he welcomes the heavy police presence.
“It should be like every day,” said the 71-year-old in his wheelchair. “I love coming out here to get fresh air and watch the people walk by. But if police aren’t here, it gets wild. I come out here about four times a week, and holidays are my favorite because there are officers everywhere and I feel safe.”
Orlin Chambers, 25, from Atlanta, said he has mixed feelings.
“I love that they’re out here protecting people. I feel safe, but then again sometimes you feel like they’re going to pounce. It’s a bit intimidating.”
Police said most of their staffing is done at night, with more than 50 percent more officers patrolling after dark.
In response to the large crowds, the usual roadway rules will be modified. If you’re heading north, you can only go on Collins Avenue. If you are going south, police will only be letting drivers use Washington Avenue. Ocean Drive will remain closed to vehicular traffic.
The MacArthur and Julia Tuttle causeways are equipped with license-plate readers and surveillance cameras. Access to residential areas between Collins Avenue and Alton Road will be limited at night. Police were asking that residents use the Venetian Causeway.
As for the weather, South Florida should see a mix of sun and clouds, with a high of 87 degrees during the day.